sam1oq wrote:A bit late, but here's my review of the album:
I have extremely mixed feelings about TLH. On one side it's horribly produced (and needs a remaster), the side project influences aren't integrated well, too many lyrical tropes (hello "deny") and at times it feels like they're just rehashing older albums, but on The Other Side (pun intended) it's got some of the best songs they've ever written, increasingly progressive songwriting and some very solid tunes to back it up with. Before I jump to any further conclusions I'll do a track by track review:
1. Show Me a Leader
This song is basically dedicated to Donald Trump as far as I can tell. Not sure whether that's a good thing. The intro to this one is one of the best things on the album. Progressive influences shine here, which is a good thing. Unfortunately the rest of the song doesn't quite match this intro. Even though it has grown massively on me and I enjoy it now as a great high energy track, it still doesn't fit the epicness of the beginning. The guitar solo is amazing though. The track is great, but I feel it could have been one of their best had the intro's quality remained throughout the rest of the song.
2. The Writing on the Wall
This is pretty much AB by the numbers as it follows a typical AB structure. The lyrics leave to be desired in a lot of cases with Myles falling into his lyrical tropes of "deny" and "You're to blame". It has a dynamics going for it so that saves it.
3. The Otter Slide
(Again, pun intended). I love this song. This is without a doubt Myles' best vocal performance on the album. The bridge is orgasmic, lol. Also those riffs are HEAVY. I lost my shit when I first heard the track when it leaked. From the moment the a cappella opening started I knew I was up for something special, and damn it was. Definitely one of my favourite tracks on the album.
4. My Champignon
I didn't think much about this song when it came out and still don't. A nice rock beat and melodies and a great guitar solo as always but it feels a bit forced. They just HAD to write that uplifting song. I can enjoy it when I'm in the mood though. It's not bad, but I feel AB should be beyond songs like this musically.
5. Poisson in Your Veins
Poisson is French for fish, so now imagine a fish swimming through your veins. I really dislike this. It was written solely for being played live. The chorus sucks balls with the Slash influences. His sound just doesn't match with AB. Ugh. Verses and solo are pretty good though. The lyrics also don't really appeal to me.
6. Cradle to the Grave
This is where the album gets really good. Tied with The Other Side, this track sits very high with me. Love the personal verses and Myles' singing. Heart touching. The chorus is amazing and it's a shame the guitars got buried in the mix. They provide amazing atmosphere here. Bridge is super awesome aside from "There's no way to deny" and the abrupt transition back to the chorus. This is the type of stuff they should be putting out more often. I already said it with Fortress and SttV, longer/dynamic tracks are where this band shines. Every step in the direction of prog metal is a good step.
7. Losing Patience
This track starts out nicely but it quickly becomes apparent that it should actually be a B-side. I love the main riff and the verses but the rest just isn't up to par with the rest of the album. I'm really annoyed by all the arena rock choruses on TLH and this song is the main abuser, followed by Poison. The song ends on a strong note though, the final "While your life is still worth saving." is spine chilling.
8. This Side of Fate
The first of the two epics. Where to start? The quite first chorus presented as a verse going into the actual chorus is a very clever trick that works very well. The transition into the second verse is also great with a crying guitar from Mark (?). Then the BRIDGE, wow! Building up the tension first over sincere Myles singing into full intensity back to sincerity and suddenly going in full force to one of the best ever build ups to a guitar solo which is executed amazingly. Couldn't believe it was Myles at first. Dang that guy is GOOD. Then back to the chorus we have another surprise: it's sung an octave lower and it works. Mark's solo to finish it off, but it ends not really strong IMO, making it just not perfect.
9. You Will Be Remembered
This song has more cheese than my girlfriend from Gouda. Definitely not a fan of this one. Maybe I'm a heartless bastard, but I just don't feel much for this. It feels like they needed to write a ballad like this. AB can do better than country anthems right?
10. Crows on a Wire
A bit AB by the numbers and another arena rock chorus (though it's presented acceptable here), but this time it works very well. The metal influences seem to work well on AB and this song to no exception. Great headbanger. Bridge/solo is again very strong. Not much to say about it for the rest.
An AB III homage. Strange song that seems to work well but on the other hand is just average. I wish it was longer and didn't end so abruptly. I wish Tremonti would sing here. Seems like a song he'd do well in for some reason. The chorus is weird: "TWILAIIIIGGHHT" is just weird, but the dynamics work well. Bridge is too short. This one could have been much better imo.
12. Island of Fools
I think this is the best song on the album without any significant progressive influences. A straightforward headbanger that just madafakin SLAYS. Heavy as fuck, super catchy/epic chorus and killer solos. Rhythm section is at the top of their game here. I was so disappointed not to see this live in Amsterdam.
13. The Last Hero
This is the best thing they ever did, period. Beats Blackbird, Words, Fortress, CoA, etc. clean. This is just a perfect metal song. Sits comfortably alongside mammoths such as Hallowed Be Thy Name or Master of Puppets. The immediate vocal intro is cool, then gets heavy as fuck, goes into amazing verses and into the chorus which is epic and catchy at the same time. The lyrics are also very strong here all around. The bridge is of course amazing, and that's an understatement. The breakdown is crazy, a perfect solo build up which is again Myles, an epic chugging breakdown section and back to the beginning of the song. Chorus again and an epic solo, from Mark this time. I thought that'd be the end of it, but it goes again into epic chugging and ends amazingly. I'm a total sucker for this song holy shit. Only wished to hear more from Mark's vocals.
14. Symphony of Agony (bonus song)
This one should have replaced Losing Patience. I understand why it's a B-side but that feels unjust when there are worse songs on the record. The tone of the solo is amazing and I can see why it was Mark's favourite solo on the record. Rest of the song is decent.
Overall I find TLH a record that is extremely hard to place. The right signs are there, but it feels rushed and at times the solo projects take over the band (which is bad). I hope AB will do less side projects before AB VI and spend more time together touring and writing songs. Both Mark and Myles seem to have so many cool ideas at the moment that they all seem to go to waste on small sections of songs (riff from Losing Patience or intro SMaL eg, not even talking about the Tremonti songs). They should take the time and let it all sink in to write something really epic. Maybe churn out an EP with two or three long songs in the meantime.
Hey, super late reply, I know, but I only hopped back onto TABN the other day and have been perusing old discussions to gauge what the general reception to TLH was.
Your review matches up very well with mine, although I will say overall that I feel less harshly toward the album. I consider it to be in their top 2 or 3 efforts due to the good things you mentioned (the more progressive moments, the heavier and darker moments, etc), but I also think it's held back from the Fortress level due to the same bad things you mentioned (poor production, cheesy lyrics in some cases, songs that don't hold the standard of the rest of the album). I disagree about the criticism of outside influences negatively impacting TLH though: the only song where I feel this applies is Poison In Your Veins, where (like you pointed out) the chorus feels far too Slash-like.
This Side of Fate and The Last Hero are both AMAZING tracks though, and are definitely in my top 5 all-time AB songs. I had TSoF a step above TLH for a long time, but I'm less sure of that now. As you said, TLH finishes stronger, and is more consistent throughout, but damn that whole mid-section of TSoF is perfect. I also agree that Island of Fools is the best non-progressive song on the album. It may actually be the best kick-ass/balls-to-the-wall type heavy song they have ever done, because it truly is great. And I agree that Cradle to the Grave is another standout, and The Other Side was a pleasantly surprising song.
I do rate The Writing on the Wall higher than you seem to though. It isn't amazing, but it's a damn good high-energy track, and that way the rhythm guitar locks in with the bass and bass drum during the verses is infectious. I also understand both your criticism of and support for Twilight. When I first heard it I considered it to be the weakest track on the album, but it has definitely grown on me over time. It's far from the strongest, and it does feel "weird" as you said - but I have grown fond of it and think it deserves to be on the album.
Last of Our Kind also deserved to be on the album, and in all honesty I think it should have taken the place of either Poison In Your Veins or Losing Patience. That first half of the album really suffers from having too many weaker, overly-catchy songs, and I think by taking one (or both) of them out and putting Last of Our Kind in its place the whole album would benefit. I also feel that You Will Be Remembered doesn't work as the band probably hoped it would, but that it COULD work better if it was stripped back more. It just feels unnecessarily crowded, and with less layering of guitars and vocals, and just being less LOUD overall, it may have translated better.
Like you said, the further AB step in the direction of progressive the more they shine in my opinion. It seems to be the logical evolution for the band, and the songs that demonstrate that on this album are the strongest ones on offer. The ones that resist that progression are almost invariably the weakest. I'd really love to hear a remixed version of this album: less vocal layering, less overall "loudness" and compression, with Last of Our Kind replacing Poison In Your Veins and/or Losing Patience, and You Will Be Remembered being stripped back to a more acoustic feel. I feel that those are all small changes, but cumulatively could add up to the album approaching that Fortress level.
Also, a sidenote: that "crying guitar" bit you mentioned after the first verse in TSoF is almost certainly Myles. Listen to the tone and it matches up very closely with the tone of his solo on the song, but not with Mark's. For further indication, listen to Myles' solos in MF4 songs such as Overflow or Reigns Over Me. I could be wrong, but I'm 98% sure that guitar part is Myles.